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Washington Voices

Liberty Lake moves closer on River District

Thu., Oct. 8, 2009

Months of discussion came to a head Tuesday night as the Liberty Lake City Council made final decisions on several sticking points in the River District Specific Area proposed by Greenstone, which is developing the acreage north of the freeway on either side of Harvard Road.

The land being developed is owned by Centennial Properties, a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

The council approved several compromises between city staff and Greenstone, but disagreed on some issues. There were 14 issues to be decided and the council voted on 11 of the 14 Tuesday.

The first was Greenstone’s request to be able to add residential units in a commercial zone. Councilman Neal Olander said he didn’t want to set a precedent but councilman Ryan Romney voted with the majority in favor of granting the request as long as it was in a vertical mixed use building with businesses on the ground floor. “I’ve seen this in multiple places and it has come off nicely,” Romney said.

The council stood its ground, however, when it came to sidewalk widths. With the exception of one, all sidewalks in Liberty Lake currently are 6-feet wide. Greenstone had asked to make the sidewalks on some residential streets only 5-feet wide. Just recently the city staff had agreed to Greenstone’s suggestion, but the council did not.

The council voted to reject the compromise that had been reached and insisted on 6-feet wide sidewalks throughout the new development. The council did agree, however, to allow Greenstone to put in parking lot landscaping in every other row of parking spaces. Current city code calls for parking lots to have landscaping in every row of parking.

The council got bogged down on the 12th issue involving the size of parks in the River District. City staff and Greenstone negotiated to make the proposed Orchard Park 10 acres instead of eight, while dropping a neighborhood park from seven acres down to five. Olander, in what may be his last chance to champion for larger parks in the River District, gave an impassioned plea for his fellow council members to vote to make Orchard Park 20 acres.

“They deserve some decent park space up there,” he said. “It’s not a huge park. Twenty acres is not big.”

Councilwoman Judi Owens said she thought a 20-acre park was too big and instead suggested 15 acres. “I do think 10 acres is too small,” she said.

No decision was reached on the issue as the hour approached 11 p.m. The council will resume its discussion at its next regularly scheduled council meeting on Oct. 20.

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